Adventurer Ivan Dimov to take up the Global Solo Challenge

Adventurer Ivan Dimov to take up the Global Solo Challenge

Captain Dimov and his novel-like life - Text Margherita Pelaschier - Image: ©Ivan Dimov

Ivan Dimov seems like a character straight out of an adventure novel.

When you listen to his story, you can’t help but sympathize with him and love this kind-hearted hero who, despite facing many challenges, continues to pursue his dreams.

“Rien sans peine” (nothing without effort and suffering) is the tattoo on Ivan’s left arm. He lost his mother at the age of three and says, “When you have a big void, you have to compensate for it with something else; when I was a child, I fought to always be first in everything.”

Born in Sofia, Bulgaria, Ivan discovered the sea at the age of seven while traveling with his father. He began to dream. For a child, setting off means aiming for the horizon: “I wanted to sail alone, I took a fisherman’s boat, a kind of fishing boat, and set sail.” He set sail alone and started sailing in the tumultuous waters of the Black Sea, pure adrenaline, but when the wind died down, he didn’t know how to return. He was stranded for three days before being rescued by a military lookout.

“They brought me back to shore. At that time, everything was solved with beatings, so the captain beat me up, the doctor beat me up, and then my father and the boat owner did too. But despite the harsh punishment, salty water has been flowing in my veins ever since.”

Other ups and downs periodically brought Ivan closer or further away from the sea. When he grew up, he decided to leave Bulgaria, and to do so, he needed a qualified job that he could also do abroad. He went to work at the Sheraton Hotel and became a chef. He was then transferred to Cape Town, South Africa. He managed to buy a boat, a Catalina. After a difficult period for immigrants, Dimov was forced to return to Bulgaria, but he didn’t give up. He sold his car for a few Deutsche Marks and set off for Italy, where he had acquaintances who, however, could not offer him tangible help in starting a new life.

Without knowing Italian and without financial resources, he initially led a homeless life. His willpower and initiative helped him find a new path: “I went to restaurants and offered my work in exchange for food, then when they saw that I was willing, they started paying me.”

After a year, Ivan spoke Italian and started working as a bricklayer. He quickly became a team leader because he was the only one capable of reading construction plans. “We sailors have good manual skills and can do many things.”

I wonder what a man like him can’t do… “I’ve never had to repair an elevator,” he laughs in response.

An architect friend gave him several assignments, and Ivan then met an important English parliamentarian and became his factotum. He spent fifteen years serving the family and started sailing again between the UK and the Bahamas.

Ivan found a partner in Italy with whom he lives in Barberino Val d’Elsa, and when he was offered a permanent move to the UK, he refused to fulfill her desire not to leave Italy.

Dimov continues to sail and dreams of circumnavigating the globe. Going around the world has been a dream of his since he was a child. “I’m like all dreamers, but some stay on the dock, while others throw themselves into making them come true… I am among the latter.”

Ivan tried to do it for the first time in 2018. He modified a Coco 6.50, “Minnie,” with a revolutionary rig without a mainsail.

The boat has a classic, semi-planing hull, equipped with an innovative double mast structure that supports a sail plan with a double jib. The route is complex, start from La Rochelle, passing through the three great Capes and returning to France; without stops and without assistance. Priority was given to simplifying maneuvers while trying to reduce possible breakages. Unfortunately, Ivan was forced to abandon this project due to problems with the boat.

“When Marco Nannini created the Global Solo Challenge, I immediately signed up. I realized that it could be my second chance. It’s a more “cool” race than others, it gives more freedom while respecting important safety rules. Patrick Phelipon and I signed up among the first. Patrick is a great person, we help each other, and I am happy to have him as a friend. We are competing against each other but that’s how this race is, solidarity among competitors is the basis. The important thing is to finish.”

To participate in the GSC, Dimov will sail aboard an Endurance 37, built in South Africa, in a shipyard near Cape Town. “My boat has already sailed a lot with the previous owners, it has gone through the Panama Canal, to Australia, almost around the world. This time I chose a simple and reliable means: it is a long keel boat, solid in structure and very comfortable inside.” The boat was already equipped with solar panels and wind turbines. Ivan changed standing and running rigging and to complete the preparation he now must build the bow and stern crash boxes, redo the hatch covers, and expand the coachroof to protect himself from the cold.

“The boat must become like your arm, when you move it you know what happens. You have to know how it behaves in any condition.”

Dimov is not worried about solitude “I have no problem being alone. I feel good in the middle of the sea, in nature. What worries me is the cold, it is difficult to find something that protects you; so, I am studying various options to install heating on board. I am also concerned about attacks by whales and orcas, I have already had the experience and you feel really helpless.”

The sails of “Blue Ibis,” the Endurance 37, will be in reinforced Dacron stitching, “I was looking for strength and durability, Millennium sailmakers in Prato embraced this idea and is preparing a new set of sails for me.”

Ivan does not yet have a main sponsor but thanks all the technical sponsors who are supporting him in his project: Lippert Marine Europe, Quick, Millennium sailmaker, Red Rose Marine Ltd, Poggetto Feeling Better, Usail, Lewmar, 7Life Sport & Fitness, and Superduper Hats.

“Among the sponsors, I would also add Patrick Phelipon with whom we often communicate and exchange many ideas and advice. I also want to dedicate a special thanks to him for his friendship and loyalty.”

Dimov, sixty years old, in addition to preparing his boat, is following a muscle strengthening program and trains for about an hour a day. “In the past, I used to walk at least 25 kilometers a day, now at most 2 or 3, and if I do 200 meters on the boat, it will be a lot; so, I try to compensate by building muscle mass.”

But what scares this seafarer? “Yes, returning scares me. When you come back to land after months of navigation and solitude, you feel disoriented by everything you see and hear around you,” in short, a homesickness of the soul that is difficult to manage.

Dimov, as he did during his first attempt at circumnavigation, will dedicate his project to the protection of the planet: “Let’s save our planet, we don’t have another one to hide in. When I go out on a boat, I come back to port loaded with plastic, but then we don’t know how to recycle it. We’re at a critical point, I hope things change.”

“…after having sailed through many seas, I have arrived here…” This is the tattoo that Dimov carries on his right arm, from Catullus’ poem 101.

Ivan's  ready for a new adventure, another life in the many lives he’s lived in six decades.

Today Dimov is a professional who restores abandoned boats to give them new life, has been named man of the year in Bulgaria, and is known as “Captain Dimov.” He truly wants to take little Ivan to explore what lies beyond all the horizons of the globe to realize his dream. We’re rooting for him.


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